MGMA: E-Prescribing Cuts Costs, Improves Patient Safety

With perhaps two-thirds of all physician office visits resulting in the doctor writing a prescription, electronic prescribing should be an essential part of any practice's IT strategy, practice management advocates and government officials say.

William F. Jessee, M.D., president and chief executive of the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), says that practices need to look at e-prescribing not only as a safety tool but also as a way to improve patient satisfaction. "Patients really like the fact that their providers are current and on top of things," Jessee said Monday during a public MGMA Webcast and conference call.

The Englewood, Colo.-based MGMA held the event as part of the organization's second-annual National Medical Group Practice Week.

The MGMA found in 2004 that telephone time with pharmacies and additional time spent verifying patient insurance details and resubmitting denied claims cost group practices more than $20,000 per full-time physician each year. And the Harvard-affiliated Center for Information Technology Leadership (Wellesley, Mass.) estimates that nationwide adoption of e-prescribing technology could prevent 2.1 million adverse drug events per year.

"Most of us, when we talk about e-prescribing, the big push is patient safety, first and foremost," according to Charles Lathram III, president and executive director of OB/GYN Associates of Northwest Alabama. But the technology also has helped the Florence, Ala., practice trim thousands in expenses. "It dramatically reduces the amount of time we have to spend on the phone in the physician office," Lathram said.

He also called e-prescribing a "great marketing tool" for health plans because the technology eliminates many of the hassles associated with formulary and co-pay verification.

But MGMA Health Care Consulting Group principal Rosemarie Nelson cautioned that e-prescribing -- indeed, all health-IT -- must fit within comfortable workflow patterns. "Whatever that information technology piece is, it needs to be easy to use for staff, nurses, and providers," Nelson said. If not, none of the technology matters.

Remote access via the Web and on handheld mobile devices can help raise physician comfort level with e-prescribing, according to Nelson.Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Meanwhile, the new Medicare Part D prescription drug program recently prompted the  (CMS) to issue standards for e-prescribing. This month, CMS is beginning e-prescribing pilot projects to test the standards and will report its results to Congress in April 2007. CMS is to have final, voluntary standards in place for participating Medicare providers no later than April 2008.
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